Notebook: Inoue injured, forces postponement of Fulton showdown
Janibek to defend against Butler; Charlo must produce medical report; Showtime May 13 card gets site; Quick hits; Show and tell
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One of the best fights on the schedule so far in 2023 was postponed on Tuesday.
Japanese pound-for-pound star and three-division champion Naoya Inoue has suffered an undisclosed injury, forcing his move up to junior featherweight to challenge unified titleholder Stephen Fulton to be delayed, sources with knowledge the postponement told Fight Freaks Unite.
The sources said the injury is not viewed as serious and the fight will be rescheduled for this summer.
The fight was scheduled to take place on May 7 at Yokohama Arena in Yokohama, Japan, and stream on ESPN+ in the early morning in the United States and on upstart streaming service Lemino in Japan, where Inoue is a mainstream sports star and the country’s most significant active boxer.
Fulton acknowledged the postponement when he tweeted on Tuesday afternoon, “We got a date. Relax. It’s still happening.”
“The Monster” Inoue vacated the undisputed bantamweight championship in mid-January because he wanted to go after a title in a fourth weight division and Fulton, the unified WBC/WBO 122-pound titlist, was also anxious to test himself against an elite opponent, and the fight was made with no drama with Fulton headed outside of the United States to fight for the first time.
Inoue (24-0, 21 KOs), 29, who has also won world titles at junior bantamweight and junior flyweight, knocked out Paul Butler in the 11th round of a one-sided battering to take his WBO bantamweight title on Dec. 13 to fully unify the 118-pound division and become the first undisputed bantamweight champion of the three- or four-belt era. He was also the first undisputed champion in the division in 50 years, since Panama’s Enrique Pinder unified the WBC and WBA belts during the two-belt era in 1972.
Going into the fight, Inoue, who is 19-0 with 17 knockouts in world title bouts, said it would be his final bout in the division and he reiterated it afterward, and then followed through by giving up the titles.
Fulton (21-0, 8 KOs), 28, of Philadelphia, handily outpointed Angelo Leo to win the WBO title in January 2021 and then claimed a disputed majority decision over Brandon Figueroa 10 months later to take his WBC title in an action-packed 2021 fight of the year contender. In his only fight since unifying, Fulton defended the belts by near-shutout decision over former unified titlist Daniel Roman this past June.
Alimkhanuly to face Butler
WBO middleweight titlist Janibek Alimkhanuly will make his second defense against Stephen Butler in the main event of a Top Rank Boxing on ESPN card on May 13 at Stockton Arena in Stockton, California, sources with knowledge of the bout, which has not yet been announced, told Fight Freaks Unite.
Alimkhanuly (13-0, 8 KOs), 29, a southpaw and 2016 Olympian from Kazakhstan based in Oxnard, California, knocked out former world titleholders Hassan N’Dam and Rob Brant in back-to-back fights in 2021 and then knocked out Danny Dignum in the first round in his next fight to claim the vacant interim belt.
When Demetrius Andrade declined to make a mandatory defense against Alimkhanuly and vacated to move up in weight, Alimkhanuly was elevated to full titlist and in his first defense won a unanimous decision against Denzel Bentley in November in a fight far more competitive than most thought it would be.
Last month Alimkhanuly was ordered to next face mandatory challenger and former junior middleweight titlist Liam Smith (33-3-1, 20 KOs), 34, of England, but he could not accept the fight because he is contractually obligated to give a rematch to countryman Chris Eubank Jr., whom he knocked out in the fourth round on Jan. 21. Smith-Eubank II, even not for a world title, is still a far more lucrative and high-profile bout than had Smith faced Alimkhanuly.
Butler (32-3-1, 26 KOs), 27, of Montreal, won four fights in a row in 2022 following an upset fifth-round knockout to Jose de Jesus Macias in January 2021. In the fight before that defeat, Butler was also stopped in the fifth round challenging then-WBA “regular” middleweight titlist Ryota Murata in Japan.
The WBA has notified junior lightweight titlist Hector Luis Garcia and mandatory challenger Lamont Roach that should meet next and commence negotiations. The have 30 days — until April 19 — to make a deal and send the contracts to the organization. If either side does not want to negotiate they can request an immediate purse bid. If the fight is auctioned the split will be 75-25 in Garcia’s favor. Garcia (16-1, 10 KOs), 31, a southpaw from the Dominican Republic, outpointed Roger Gutierrez to win the title in August and then moved up to challenge secondary lightweight titlist Gervonta Davis, who stopped him in the ninth round in January. Roach (23-1-1, 9 KOs), 27, of Washington, D.C., has won four fights in a row since his lone loss, a decision challenging then-WBO titlist Jamel Herring in November 2019.
The WBO notified undisputed junior middleweight champion Jermall Charlo via letter to TGB Promotions’ Tom Brown that he has until Saturday to submit “a detailed medical update and/or status of his injury, recovery prognosis, and his orthopedic specialist’s opinion as to when will he be physically and medically cleared to compete and return to active competition.” Charlo fractured his left hand in two places, forcing him out of a Jan. 28 mandatory defense versus Tim Tszyu, who was permitted to face Tony Harrison for the interim title March 12. Australia’s Tszyu (22-0, 16 KOs), 28, won by ninth-round knockout. The fight with Charlo (35-1-1, 19 KOs), 32, of Houston, is next and must take place within six months, according to the WBO’s order.
Showtime’s tripleheader on May 13 headlined by WBA junior welterweight titlist Alberto Puello making his first defense against Rolando Romero, which was announced earlier this month but without a set site, will take place at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, a source with knowledge of the details told Fight Freaks Unite. The card also features two televised 10-rounders: junior welterweight Gary Antuanne Russell against Kent Cruz (16-0-3, 10 KOs) and former junior lightweight and lightweight titlist Rances Barthelemy versus Omar Juarez.
Lightweight Michel Rivera (24-1, 14 KOs), 24, of the Dominican Republic, was suspended for six months and fined $10,000 via 5-0 vote of the Nevada State Athletic Commission at its monthly meeting on Tuesday. The panel had been investigating his positive test for two banned diuretics related to a one-sided decision loss to Frank Martin in a Showtime main event Dec. 17 at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. He is off suspension June 17 but subject to random drug testing by the commission. The substances he tested positive for, hydrochlorothiazide and triamterene, typically would be used to assist in weight loss but are banned under World Anti-Doping Agency code.
Showtime will stream two 10-round preliminary bouts on Saturday (7 p.m. ET) from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on the Showtime Sports YouTube channel and Showtime Boxing Facebook page before the David Benavidez-Caleb Plant Showtime PPV event begins at 9 p.m. ET. The two bouts: Mexican junior featherweight Kevin Gonzalez (25-0-1, 13 KOs), 25, versus Colombia’s Jose Sanmartin (34-6-1, 21 KOs), 30, and Miami-based Cuban junior welterweight Orestes Velazquez (6-0, 6 KOs), 30, facing Marcelino Lopez (37-2-1, 22 KOs), 36, of Argentina.
British heavyweight Frazer Clarke (5-0, 4 KOs), 31, a 2020 Olympic bronze medalist, will face Bogdan Dinu (20-4, 16 KOs), 36, of Romania, in an eight-rounder Saturday (ProBox TV in the U.S., Sky Sports in the U.K.) on the undercard of WBO cruiserweight titlist Lawrence Okolie’s mandatory defense versus David Light at AO Arena in Manchester, England, Boxxer announced. Clarke was due to face durable Detroit journeyman Rydell Booker but Boxxer said he withdrew “following a serious medical incident” over the weekend. Dinu’s losses have all come by knockout to notable opponents, including by fourth-round KO in his most recent fight last March to Kevin Lerena and by second-round KO in the fight before that against Daniel Dubois in an interim title fight in June 2021.
Antonio “El Gigante” Mireles (6-0, 6 KOs), 25, a 6-foot-9, 270-pound southpaw heavyweight from Des Moines, Iowa, will face Patrick Mailata (6-1, 3 KOs), 28, who was born in Samoa and fights out of Orem, Utah, on Saturday at Save Mart Center in Fresno, California, in a six-rounder that Top Rank moved up the undercard to open the televised ESPN tripleheader (10 p.m. ET) headlined by the Jose Ramirez-Richard Commey junior welterweight bout. Mireles-Mailata replaces the original televised opener that was to have featured 2020 U.S. Olympic super heavyweight silver medalist Richard Torrez Jr., who withdrew due to injury.
Top Rank has acquired rights to two cards that will stream on ESPN+ this week. On Thursday (7 p.m. ET), super middleweight Christian Mbilli (22-0, 20 KOs), 27, a 2016 French Olympian, faces two-time Ecuadorian Olympian Carlos Gongora (21-1, 16 KOs), a 33-year-old southpaw, in the 10-round headliner at the Montreal Casino in Montreal. On Friday (3 p.m. ET), Italian super middleweight Ivan Zucco (16-0, 14 KOs), a 27-year-old southpaw, will face England’s Germaine Brown (12-1, 3 KOs), 28, in the main event at Allianz Cloud in Milan, Italy.
The WBA has won a motion to have a case brought against it by heavyweight Mahmoud Charr dismissed. Charr, who was stripped of the WBA secondary title, sued promoter Don King, Epic Sports, the WBA and WBA president Gilberto Mendoza in the Southern District Court of Florida last July. Charr was seeking financial damages related to charges of Muhammad Ali Act violations, breach of contract related to a purse bid and other complaints that he claimed led to being stripped.
Show and tell
In the second main event of what was then a new series — HBO’s “Boxing After Dark” — the legend of Arturo Gatti, my all-time favorite fighter, was born from his incredible sixth-round comeback knockout of Wilson Rodriguez to retain his junior lightweight title for the first time.
The fight was dubbed “March Mayhem” at the Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York and it couldn’t have been more appropriately given the utter chaos that would unfold in the ultra-exciting bout. Gatti’s right eye was swollen and he got dropped in the second round of the all-out slugfest. There was drama in Gatti’s corner following the third round when the ringside doctor examined his eye and barked at him to cover his left eye and to tell him how many fingers he had up or he would stop the fight. Gatti finally obeyed and got it right, but he needed to do something dramatic. He dropped Rodriguez in the fifth round with a body shot but had a point deducted for a low blow and was in trouble as the round ended. But in the sixth round, trailing on two scorecards, Gatti drilled Rodriguez with a left hook to knock him out for an all-time comeback in one of my favorite fights of all time. It was the first in a string of memorable battles Gatti would engage in. Gatti-Rodriguez took place on March 23, 1996 — 27 years ago on Thursday.
Here are two prized items from the legendary fight in my collection: A scarce thin cardboard site poster (which also pictures the outstanding co-feature between Orlando Canizales and Junior Jones) and a full ticket. I also have the program, which is not pictured.
Inoue photo: Naoki Fukuda; Alimkhanuly photo: Mikey Williams/Top Rank
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Gatti vs Rod tell the fights were not better and with easier access back then >? Now they would think about it make it marinade make it into lemonaide and sell it to the lowest bidder. Anyhow thanks for the flashback on that one little gem. Gatti would come into the ring and before the fight people would be asking "is he bleeding yet" the fight had not even started. Loved it. blood and guts. the monster is hurt well so was GODZILLA and he came back and defeated KONG. Showtime keeps putting the good stuff at the moment. Forget its PPV this week not worth the money or the time. ESPN has a few tricks up its sleeve good for them both keep the fights coming. Eddie who ? They dont even care enough about USA viewers to put a lousy show on an APP on time, what a joke. Sloopy junk. Sloopy seconds not for me. Good stuff all the news that is fit to print.